Factoring in varying intensity in your choice of Open University courses

In theory it’s easy to calculate the amount of time that you need to set aside to do an OU course. On the face of it the only complication is that you need to do one course to let you estimate the scaling factor to apply to their estimates. Thus they quote 16 hours a week for a 60 point course and 8 for a 30 point course; my normal scaling factor is 1/2 so that generally makes it more like 6 hours for a 16 pointer and around 3 for a 30 pointer.

You might think that they’d quote around 3 hours a week for a 15 pointer but they’re run over a shorter time so generally it’s around 8 hours that they quote and sometimes as much as 11. Likewise, not all 30 point courses run over 9 months these days: those run over 5 months quote 11 hours a week rather than 8.

What’s also noticeable is that for the more intense courses (i.e. those run over shorter periods) the scale factor to apply is different. Thus for A251 I found that it took more than my predicted 5 hours a week throughout and a whole lot more in the final week to do the ECA. Also, you’ll find that courses largely presented online can seem to take more time in that you have to be online quite often to do them and can’t do your own thing as is the case for most OU courses.

In times gone by the way to gauge the intensity of a course was simply to ask those who’d done it. With a bit of luck you’d find someone who’d done both a course you’d already done and one you were thinking of doing. Thus I know that S283 that I haven’t done yet will be quite a bit easier than S282 which I have done. Unfortunately, with the demise of FirstClass, this is becoming much more of a hit and miss affair and the option of searching for blogs describing courses doesn’t turn up a whole lot (although if you’re doing science, check out Julian’s blog which has blow by blow descriptions of all the courses he’s done).

As it stands right now, there’s very little to go on out there and it can be conflicting too. For instance S205 is described both as extremely difficult and as little beyond A-level. Having read through some of it, it does seem to be at the easier end of the scale but that might be down to me comparing it to S204. You certainly need to read the course descriptions more closely these days, have a look at the course materials in your regional centre, ask the students in your tutor group and try FirstClass too.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Leave a Reply